Let’s set the scene - Lockdown restrictions had been loosened, restaurants were allowed to open their outdoor seating areas, and my companion Charlotte and I were heading out for our first dining experience in months.
We were craving something lavish, a grand celebration of our new-found (kind of) freedom, a real treat, so what better a place to book a table than at the unsurpassed Grantley Hall? If you’re yet to hear of this magnificent country house hotel, I’d rather like to know which wifi-less cave you’ve been hiding in, because word is travelling fast about what is quickly becoming the crowning jewel of Yorkshire’s hospitality industry.
Checking in with the smartly attired gateman you get a sense of the grandeur awaiting you just a short, yet magnificent, drive along a sweeping private road. En route you pass a cascading tiered lake complete with picturesque wooden rowboats romantically bobbing along, seemingly awaiting some Lord Darcy type to climb aboard with a doe-eyed lover. This is all before you even reach the main hotel, which welcomes you in such manicured glory that you will actually gasp in amazement.
Offering 47 exquisite bedrooms, four indulgent restaurants, three stunning bars, a more than luxurious spa and high-tech gymnasium, not to mention an English Heritage listed Japanese garden, plus a no-expense-spared attitude towards interior decoration - Grantley Hall ticks boxes that you didn’t even know existed - in the most sophisticated way.
We were here to visit the newest of their three alfresco dining options, The Orchard. It’s an eatery created under a beautifully presented sailcloth marquee attached to the main hotel building and it focuses upon a laid-back summer vibe. Large olive and orange trees break up the well-spaced tables and the menu includes dishes such as ‘hot spiced chicken salad with black fig, cucumber, honey and mango’ or ‘a warm salad of chargrilled sirloin steak with harissa, black quinoa and enoki mushrooms.’
We settled at a table overlooking the lush west lawns which reach out towards the River Skell. The weather is temperamental with dramatic hailstorms followed by glorious spells of sunshine, but we are sheltered and warm in the cosily heated surroundings of the marquee. We were even able to remove our coats which is rare for an alfresco meal on a chilly May day, but we could finally debut our new season outfits whilst sipping freshly prepared cocktails and partaking in some much-missed people watching.
We settled rather grandly (when in Rome) upon a whole grilled lobster to share, served with fries and garlic butter, accompanied by a salad of chargrilled tenderstem broccoli with blue cheese and a miso dressing, all prepared in the specially converted vintage airstream trailer which serves as a barbecue kitchen. The food and service are first-rate, with staff who are genuinely proud to work there. Everything is slickly run and our drinks never go empty whilst every whim is immediately catered to.
At Grantley Hall you’ll find a mix of wealthy individuals enjoying the finer things in life, alongside local people treating themselves, both being treated with the utmost care and attention in an upmarket, yet unstuffy manner.
We finished our meal with a dessert each, me a sumptuous chocolate tarte and Charlotte with a classic Crème Brûlée, and a coffee each. We stayed chatting and taking in the atmosphere until our other daily commitments really had to be addressed, and so we left thanking the many courteous staff members and whispering promises to each other to return soon, although the magic of Grantley Hall leaves you with a lasting enchantment.
Ripon HG4 3ET
Tel. 01765 620070